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Energy Partners

ORNL's partnerships with industry, universities, and government agencies increase the probability that energy-efficient technologies will be adopted.


One mission of the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Program at ORNL is to conduct research that will lead to the development and commercial deployment of sustainable energy resources. Thus, the EERE program actively promotes partnerships and collaborations with industry, state and local governments, trade and policy associations, universities, and the Department of Energy and other federal agencies.

At the heart of this research and development activity is an enthusiastic commitment to finding ways to reduce the U.S economy's energy intensity. Involved partners are more likely to move technologies into the mainstream market. In addition, early collaboration can ensure that the unique issues of ORNL's customers are being addressed as the partners focus on more-energy-efficient practices.

One hallmark of the EERE Program is effective partnerships across the five major technology sectors: buildings, distributed energy, industry, renewable energy, and transportation. Industrial partnerships are particularly integral to the success of the program, because they provide an important pathway to commercializing the results of R&D activities. Other articles in this issue of the ORNL Review provide numerous examples of these industry collaborations.

Two additional key partnerships are featured in this article: the program's growing relationship with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and partnerships with various energy offices of the states.

TVA—Critical Regional Partner

 


Projects involving TVA and ORNL include  heat pump water heaters.
Projects involving TVA and ORNL include heat pump water heaters.
 

In the past few years, TVA, as America's largest power producer, and ORNL, as the largest energy laboratory, have led the nation in advancing energy efficiency and energy security. Major activities in which ORNL and TVA have collaborated include:

  • Invention of the frostless heat pump by ORNL researchers in response to TVA's request for an electric appliance that would be competitive with gas units by providing greater thermal comfort, while increasing energy efficiency by minimizing the heat pump's defrost cycle
  • Promotion of heat pump water heater technology, which is 50% more energy efficient than traditional water heaters, with the leading water heater manufacturers
  • Field testing hybrid solar lighting technology, which has resulted in the creation of a more marketable third-generation technology
  • Participation in the design and construction of near-zero-energy prototype Habitat for Humanity houses
  • Pursuit of the effective integration of photovoltaics into roofing structures
  • Development of low-cost sensor detection approaches to monitoring power transmission performance
  • Investment in a range of power transmission research projects, such as testing advanced conductors, at DOE's National Transmission Technology Research Center at ORNL
  • Support of a regional networking infrastructure to more effectively link the computers of ORNL and the region with computers at other national research centers
  • Participation of ORNL as the first major industrial customer of TVA's "green power" program.

ORNL and TVA continue to assess areas of mutual interest in developing technologies and capabilities that are national models for advancing energy efficiency, security, and economic development.


Projects involving TVA and ORNL include (left to right) integrating photovoltaics in roofs, purchasing of TVA's
Projects involving TVA and ORNL include (left to right) integrating photovoltaics in roofs, purchasing of TVA's "green power" by ORNL, and promoting frostless heat pumps.
 

State Partnerships

Three different initiatives with states have provided effective approaches to accelerating the development and deployment of sustainable energy technologies throughout the country:

The State Partnerships Program, which was initiated in 1996, awards ORNL research and technical assistance support to states in response to solicitations for projects.


Emissions and fuel use during truck idling are being studied by ORNL, UT, and New Jersey researchers.
Emissions and fuel use during truck idling are being studied by ORNL, UT, and New Jersey researchers.
 


The principal partners targeted through this process are the National Association of State Energy Officials and the Association of State Energy Research and Technology Transfer Institutions. Since the program's inception, the EERE Program has completed projects with energy offices in 36 of the 50 states. For example:

  • ORNL researchers analyzed the potential for energy efficiency in Iowa and determined that state funding would have the greatest impact through a combination of market-based programs and standards that target both the residential and commercial sectors.
  • Researchers with the National Transportation Research Center of ORNL and the University of Tennessee, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and New Jersey are cooperating to measure and characterize emissions and fuel use during idling of long-haul trucks to help state energy and air quality offices do their planning and to support development of technologies that mitigate emissions and reduce fuel waste.
  • Seattle, Washington, has been plagued by failures of recently constructed buildings resulting from damage induced by moisture. The city and Washington State University have partnered with ORNL to determine the cause of the premature deterioration of these buildings and to develop building envelope designs and control strategies that achieve both energy efficiency and moisture control.

The Technical Assistance Project provides assistance to states through a collaborative effort among three DOE national labs—ORNL, National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. The project supports short-term technical assistance for initiatives involving system benefits charges or other rate-payer-funded utility efficiency and renewable programs, renewable or efficiency portfolio standards, use of clean energy technologies to help states and localities address air emissions, or use of renewable energy on both state and local public lands. Examples of recent projects supported through ORNL include:

  • Development of emissions metrics (undesirable and desirable levels of airborne nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds, and particulate matter) associated with state implementation plans for air quality improvement in Tennessee
  • Recommendations for developing an energy efficiency technology portfolio standard for New Jersey
  • Assessment of the soil composition of state land for growing biomass fuel material in Florida

In a third initiative, the EERE Program is collaborating with the Education and Research Consortium of the Western Carolinas (ERCWC) in transferring technology in the rural Western Carolinas. The goal is to translate energy-efficient technology concepts into marketable products that have significant potential for reducing both energy use and energy costs, as well as support economic development and education in the region. Five projects currently under way involve ERCWC and other regional university, community college, institutional, and industrial partners. These projects include:

  • Development of climate-based software tools to support EERE applications for local, state, and regional use
  • Manufacture and testing of an energy-efficient dual-service water heating appliance prototype
  • Creation of a Western Carolina Office of Technology Transfer, supported by EERE technologies transferred from ORNL and other organizations
  • Provision of community college campus building and industrial assessments for energy efficiency opportunities to support the development of a Western Carolina industrial assessment center at a community college
  • Creation of a user-friendly exhibit in North Carolina's new Arboretum facility to educate the public about energy-efficient practices

The ORNL-EERE Program's success at achieving energy sustainability and security for the nation rests upon maintaining and developing fully engaged partnerships and collaborations with all major players in the marketplace. Establishing effective and ongoing relationships with multiple partners helps ensure the adoption of energy-efficient technologies throughout the buildings, distributed energy, industry, renewable energy, and transportation market sectors.

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